Stanford Students for Justice in Palestine plans an all-out attempt to instate a policy of Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions targeted at the state of Israel next year via a ballot referendum.
Concerned about its impact, over a dozen students, including several close to SJP, have told the Review on condition of anonymity that the group has “big plans” for the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War. Others have detailed rumors and allegations of plans for a campus-wide referendum on divesting from Israeli companies.
Hoping to follow a national trend, SJP’s secret plans mirror those at universities such as UCLA, Northwestern, UC Davis and Loyola, all of which have recently passed BDS initiatives. The plans also follow intense controversy that SJP caused on campus last year, when a divestment bill proposed by Stanford Out of Occupied Palestine failed to pass in the ASSU Senate. The bill was then approved after a Senator dramatically changed her vote in a closed-door meeting days later.
Last year, divestment was rejected by Stanford’s president, John Hennessy, who argued it had created “intimidation and vitriol”. During discussion of the resolution, on-campus debates reached a fever pitch, with opposing speakers screaming at each other on the Senate floor in the Nitery for over four hours. Pro-BDS speakers at Stanford and elsewhere were also criticized for calling for “bloody” revolutions against Israel, and claiming that “we are all Hamas”.
Ominously for SJP, Hennessy added that the Senate’s proposed divestment was not targeted: indeed, some research suggested that Stanford was not even invested in the companies SOOP’s resolution wished to divest from. To tackle this issue, SJP is proposing a more specific student referendum targeting enumerated companies and investments.
National controversy has erupted over BDS. SJP’s actions come at a time where many have accused college campuses of fostering anti-semitism. Dozens of British universities are disaffiliating from the UK National Union of Students after their new leader called major colleges “Zionist outpost[s]”, and accusing the British media of being run by Israeli conspirators.
Gabriel Knight, former ASSU Senator at Stanford, was forced to retract his bid for re-election after arguing in a meeting that it is not anti-semitic to question whether Jewish people control the media and banks. Indeed, the 17th Undergraduate Senate found itself unable to condemn nationally-upheld standards of anti-semitism. This inaction after Knight’s comments led to direct condemnation of the ASSU from the Anti-Defamation League.
Events last year leave a giant question mark over events next year; It remains to be seen whether debate on BDS will be more civil at Stanford next year than it has been in past years here or elsewhere. Our sources questioned whether SJP thinks they have any chance of winning a campus-wide vote, given almost no student-wide BDS referenda have ever passed at US colleges; they suggested that the vote might be designed to drum up support for the group’s cause instead.
Despite requests at the national and Stanford level, SJP has not responded to comment.
Senate photo credit: Stanford Daily